In discussing these questions, most of the participants rejected deficit models1 and agreed that the challenge was not to “fix” minority males but rather to create environments more conducive to their participation and performance in STEM. They identified the following ways to improve research activities: (a) refine studies of identity formation and consider a developmental perspective on identity (which would include gender, race, masculinity, and class); (b) ensure that current research findings are used to inform current practices to engage minority males in STEM and that the resulting challenges or failures of these practices are considered in future research; and (c) differentiate research questions and approaches between minority groups.2

Breakout Group 1A: Researchers with a Focus on African American Males

Participants noted that the curricular and cocurricular experiences of African American males may encourage or discourage their interest in STEM careers, and therefore underscored the importance of holistic approaches3 for the recruitment, retention, and graduation of African American males in STEM fields at the undergraduate level.4 Some participants in this group observed that efforts to help undergraduate African American males persevere and graduate are more effective when coupled with a knowledge and understanding of the precollege experiences of these young men. Accordingly they argued that research on the participation of African American males at graduate and professional levels in STEM should similarly focus on the factors that motivate their choice and perseverance in these education and career pathways.

Discussions were aligned with the educational levels (K–8, high school, undergraduate, and graduate/professional) identified by the Colloquy organizers. A summary of points raised for each level follows.

For K–8:

  • To be more effective, different—and more qualitative—approaches are necessary for research on younger boys of color. Scale-based or other quantitative research studies may not be as helpful as qualitative methods, which should also consider age-appropriate developmental perspectives of identity.
  • Key research objectives include identification of the leverage points for effective intervention to enhance academic performance and STEM interest. For example, peer connections may particularly merit investigation as one such point of leverage.


1 According to the University of Kansas eLearning Design Lab, “The ‘deficit’ model focuses on the student as the major problem, neither looking within the environment nor the instructional practices in the classroom” (

2 The following summaries of the breakout group discussions and suggested research topics are based on the presentations by the rapporteur of each group and should not be construed as consensus recommendations of the individual breakout groups, the Colloquy participants as a whole, or the National Academy of Engineering.

3 According to Nandish Pantel in an article in the International Journal of Education Management 17 (6/7), “A holistic approach develops students to be critical, confident and independent. It aims to make learning a process of self-improvement that explicitly recognizes the self and the social context of learning and teaching, and recognizes the needs of the individual learner in the interaction.”

4 Undergraduate education in STEM discussed at the Colloquy includes both two- and four-year programs and the term “undergraduate” is used in this report to include both two-year and four-year schools.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement